New Illinois congressional map changes Champaign County’s congressional district

Governor+J.B.+Pritzker++addresses+members+of+the+audience+after+being+sworn+into+office+on+Jan.+14%2C+2019.+Pritzker+has+recently+approved+a+new+congressional+map+that+results+in+changes+for+the+Champaign+County.+

The Daily Illini Photo File

Governor J.B. Pritzker addresses members of the audience after being sworn into office on Jan. 14, 2019. Pritzker has recently approved a new congressional map that results in changes for the Champaign County.

By George Phelan, Staff Writer

On Nov. 24, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new congressional map approved by the legislature into law. The map notably alters the size and shape of the 13th congressional district, which includes Champaign County, and experts say the changes could favor a Democratic candidate. 

The map has received criticism from Republicans in Illinois as a form of gerrymandering or altering a state congressional map in order to favor one political party over the other.

“The state government has redrawn the district lines, and depending on which side of the aisle you sit on, you may be really pleased or displeased with the way that those lines have been drawn,” said Thomas J. Rudolph, professor in LAS. “Redistricting has always been a really controversial issue, and Illinois is no exception to that.”

While always controversial, Rudolph said, the most recent redistricting done by Illinois has been especially contentious due to the fact that Illinois has lost a congressional seat as a result of the most recent U.S. census. 

This means that, no matter how the new map is drawn, Illinois residents will ultimately lose some representation, and in practice, that representation has been seen as favoring the Democrats who are in control of the process.

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    “It’s a polarizing map in the sense that Democrats are likely to be very pleased with it because it is structured in such a way as to likely increase their share of representation in the Illinois congressional delegation,” Rudolph said. “Governor Pritzker ran on a pledge of not endorsing a redistricting map which is drawn in a partisan way.”

    For Champaign County, the new map favors the chances of a Democratic candidate winning in their 13th district in the next election. The incumbent Republican congressional representative for the 13th district, Rodney Davis, will now be in the 15th congressional district, which has grown to encompass the 13th district to both the North and South. Instead, Democratic candidates who have declared their intention to run in the 2022 election, such as Nikki Budzinski and David Palmer, are projected to be more likely to win.

    “Republican voters are likely to be very displeased with it, for obvious reasons it’s very likely to increase their share of representation in the Illinois congressional delegation,” Rudolph said as to the responses to the new congressional map. “We’ve already seen some evidence of that with the fact that some Republicans have already filed lawsuits against it on the grounds of fairness.”

    Alongside lawsuits filed by Republicans, Rudolph also mentioned legal challenges brought up by groups such as the East St. Louis Branch of the NAACP. Unlike the Republican challenges, however, these lawsuits focus on specific borders of the new Illinois map which are alleged to dilute the voting power of Black voters at the state level. The borders are alleged to instead favor the reelection of incumbent white democrats to the state legislature.

    “In defense of Illinois, the Democrats control this process in Illinois and in a handful of other states, but the Republicans often do the same thing in states that they control,” Rudolph said when asked if the new map reflects a shift in redistricting maps. “The idea of partisan gerrymandering has been around for a very long time, and both sides across the country in different states have been guilty of it.”

    The ultimate fate of this new map will be decided at a state level, however, for Champaign County, the new map reflects just one of several wider developments impacting the balance of power in the upcoming 2022 election.

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